|Why Build Links? (When Spam Works Just As Well.)|
Ok, I am whingeing here... but only sort of...
After pouring through about 20 different backlink reports on Majestic for different sites, I am pretty much convinced that for most sites, spammy backlinks either help them rank, or at least have no detrimental effect on their rankings.
I mean, I am looking at the backlinks of an apparel site that ranks page one for a fairly competitive term - and it's a very hippie oriented site - and they have links from hand-to-hand combat blogs, brain injury blogs, a GPS affiliate site, etc.
The site with the highest AC rank (one of Majestic's calculations) linking to them is on a page dedicated to a particular Chinese city that has NOTHING to do with the apparel site. The other web sites that are linked from this page also have nothing in common with one another: one if for wedding DJs, another for metal beds, and another for antique popcorn machines.
And the funny thing is, this is a small mom and pop business and this is their main business site. I know the owners personally (they live about 10 miles away from us), so it is not like they are buying up domains in bulk, building links, and moving on when they get penalized. this is their bread and butter site.
Right about now, I actually wish I had never got a subscription to majestic. It's just makes me feel like a chump for trying to build clean links. I wanted to find reputable, clean sites that are linking to my competitors so I could ask for one to, and there just don't seem to be any!
Could mean the barrier to entry is low. Saw something similar in a far more competitive niche a few years ago that was spammed out with multi hyphenated interlinked three way link trading multiple site by same owner spam. Everyone was doing it so everyone thought that's what it took to rank. It was a cesspool. I built up better links for my client and bested all of them. The barrier to entry was low.
I have the same thing happening in Greece. One company was in the top 3 spots, then got penalized and dropped to below the 5th page of results.
And now guess what, they have a new 2 page domain which has been spammed to death in multiple Argentinean, Chilean, African and Japanese websites with absolutely no relevancy at all.
It ranks #1 for one of the most competitive markets in terms of SEO know-how (in Greece). It even has their @penalizeddomain.com email written on the top of the page... Its been there for the past 3 months with no action whatsoever from Google (I bet they have received 100s of spam reports on this one).
Also a very precious SEO+Social Media project we lost with one company I've partnered with (due to the cost was their verdict) is now at the hands of a very amateur SEO firm utilizing links which are obvious that they are built to game Google's SERPs (there's only Google in Greece) and a year later its search traffic plummeted.
This is one of the top Global companies in the Automotive industry and I can't believe these guys take such a risk for a major brand which has an excellent backlink profile, healthy organic links and regular press coverage.
However on the rest of the projects I am involved (the first one above is relatively new) I have managed to attain excellent and very competitive rankings with very "poor" backlink profiles compared to the others. Just the leading directories, a handful of well-maintained web 2.0 profiles and mainly linkbait and promotional copy on the website.
|This is one of the top Global companies in the Automotive industry |
Some SEO companies like to name drop who their clients are in order to build an illusion of competence. There are a great many SEO companies out there with top names listed as clients whose SEO companies do nothing but spam and shop at paid link networks. Those lists attract other major companies and the line goes out the door at these SEO companies that don't really know how to do SEO. I got into a public argument with a co-presenter at SMX West two years ago because that guy employed that method of self-aggrandizing marketing, justifying it by saying that he has nothing to hide. At which point I dragged out a link to his enthusiastic endorsement of a paid link broker, etc. A lot of fun.
One of these people, who had a global account for a major billion dollar American company told me their link building consists of buying links from a well known paid links network. He laughed and said that the company was too big to be negatively affected.
My advice to companies shopping for SEO services is to ignore those client lists. Public client lists do not benefit the client, they are there to benefit the SEO company. Public client list is a marketing tactic designed to create the illusion of competence. That's the unwritten story behind the SEO Fiascoes that make it to the front page of the New York Times.
@martinibuster could you explain what "Public client lists" are please? Maybe is too late (5am in Greece) for me to understand...
A page on their website that lists all of their clients.
Some of this is simply a response to Panda in general by a number of websites: Pandalize me? Well, okay, I'll quit even trying to pretend I'm playing by the rules. And then what happens? They get rank! (Scratching head)
Really small B&M putting up their first biz site might also operate under the old concept that all links are good and have fallen for those "Hi I'm X and I'd like to link to your site..." link spams.
I also believe that Panda has been a bigger project than G initially intended, particularly since it was supposed to shrink the web and their index. Their holiday for new sites has been abused to a greater extent than all the content farms removed. [webmasterworld.com...]
|A page on their website that lists all of their clients. |
They don't even have a site, yet they have major accounts.
The funniest one is one employee's "web marketing" blog which has comments with links with the product name linked to the homepage of the site and out of 10 comments these are the only dofollow ones.
That blog has all their clients in such comments. They must have blagged the marketing department with their "web 2.0 skills".
|Their holiday for new sites has been abused to a greater extent than all the content farms removed. |
Fully agree with you Tangor. Really shocked to see such garbage on top of such competitive single and double word terms. And all three top spots are taken by such sites.
|Could mean the barrier to entry is low. Saw something similar in a far more competitive niche a few years ago that... was a cesspool. I built up better links for my client and bested all of them. |
You know what? You're right about that.
My site moved up from nowhere to the mid-twenties, then up to #7 ~ #9 based on just fundamental on-page SEO and a handful of links I got link begging.
I also did a survey around the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 (when emotions were pretty high) and contacted a few bloggers and tweeters who had some followers and asked them to encourage their readers to participate in the survey.
And here's the thing: Most of the links I built were to the home page (or other pages that had a decent amount of naturally occurring links and FB Likes) instead of the target page, and none of the (external) links I got had exact match anchor text for my desired keywords*.
So maybe the fact that I gained a lot of positions based on relatively minor (and non-optimized) link building does mean that the keyword has a low barrier to entry.
*Note: The external links I got mostly had the domain name or the company name as anchor text. However, I did change the anchor text of INTERNAL links to match the keywords for which I was trying to rank. So my internal links were quite well optimized.
It can be frustrating when you see those types of tactics used.
I've also seen (recently) a top competitor dropped about 25 pages (to date. My initial conclusion after studying this competitor is that the 5000 inbound unrelated links from spam blogs and auto generated comments sort of killed it for them.
There are some industries where owners do this. I think the assumption is that they would rather get a taste of top 5 than to spend real time improving their brand and earning good links.
At the end of the day recurring is the name of the game.
And recurring means consistent, slow improvements toward the top. Clients / businesses appreciate building on methodical upward movements.
I think, as do others, that there will be some major updates in the sector of links. Don't be surprised to see some type of sitewide weighting filter, similar to Panda, applied against websites that currently rank well using only low quality links.
Currently C class, limited context and quantity is working.
But as an aggregate, those links are low quality on unrelated websites. A future series of signals could take into account the number of authority links versus low quality links to better determine who is playing by those rules.
A future series of signals could take into account the number of authority links versus low quality links to better determine who is playing by those rules.
If that is the case (in essence, google will look at the RATIO of good links to bad links, instead of the amount of total links), then we would be in good shape.
There is an underlying assumption in this thread that Google defines good links the way folk here do
@Planet13 seems Majestic got you frustrated... )). Anyways my point is that if you are not a big boy with millions in your pocket and you don't consider yourself a spammer as well then nor the content is the king/queen neither the social media and links - king is the balancing.
Balance everything especially when it comes to links. I understand that my words won't be much welcomed here, but still low quality links are still considered votes and especially when balanced with high quality ones the profile can have a much better effect.
Who said poor or uneducated people can't vote in elections?
|Anyways my point is that if you are not a big boy with millions in your pocket... |
Yeah, my competitors are, for the most part, small sole proprietor shops that bought links early on, vaulted to the top of the rankings based on those spammy links, and then were able to get natural links from the simple fact they were at the top of the SERPs.
|Balance everything especially when it comes to links. |
Ahh... "Everything in moderation - including moderation."
|...but still low quality links are still considered votes and especially when balanced with high quality ones the profile can have a much better effect. |
Thanks for the reminder. A few other people have mentioned that around here, too.
|(in essence, google will look at the RATIO of good links to bad links, instead of the amount of total links |
That won't solve the problem, it will only create more problems. It's better to count the good links and discard the bad. The bad links don't help so that's money and time wasted and down the drain. No harm to Google if Google discounts those links and only counts the good links. But we know that bad links can hurt, so that means the above scenario of Google only counting the good links and discarding the bad is not happening.
In the ideal scenario, if Google only counts the good links then this will help in managing negative SEO, link building designed to negatively affect a competitor. If Google only counts the good links then Google will then be able to show the most relevant answer for a query, regardless of the crappy SEO the site publisher hired to promote their site.
But if all the sites are employing crappy SEO then there's really not much for Google to do but rank those crappy sites. Which is what I meant in my first post, it creates a situation where there is actually a low barrier of entry.
I believe discarding bad links is where Google is headed and that that boat has already left port and is in open water. I believe Google is hugely successful in catching a lot of low level link spamming techniques. I think Google is good at identifying true citations that are freely given.
But I also believe that they are not entirely successful because there are loopholes being exploited. What can one think when a non-authoritative hyphenated site that states in the footer that their content is created expressly for the purpose of driving sales through outbound links is ranking in the top ten? Google is not perfect, but they do a more than decent job of it and are pretty far along. Probably more than the average webmaster is aware of.
I believe Google's ability to identify an authoritative link is not quite there and that Google's supplementation of other non-link factors for judging quality is resulting in spammy pages still getting through and some quality pages being demoted because of something as silly as aesthetic/cosmetic value, i.e. how the site looks having an impact on their ranking ability.
Make links look real, even if they are not. You can buy a page rank 5 blog for 100$ if you are lucky. You can then sell a few links to get back some money, get some content made in India for a few $ and then get it proof read for 1$ by a native.
Then add some pictures and some youtube vids. This looks deadly real and will pass any manual test.
I too was looking for a solution a few months back and came to the conclusion that a private network is the way to go. You are just going to rip your hair out in frustration doing it the "right" way.
Building clean links = slow. I am now connecting to other guys who have own nets of 50-80 sites on individual Ip's.
... a client of mine wanted to buy links, his budget was 10.000 dollar. We didnt buy one link with it in the end but we instead created with that money a literature award, contacted all relevant news outlets, universities, writers and publishers and in the end had about 1.000 links between PR1 and PR6 20% edu, 20% news sites 20% published author websites and the rest bloggers and others...
...so what is buying a link mean anyway? its in the eye of the beholder, isn`t it?
There is a difference in creating links and being given them freely. The art is for the generated ones to look like they are given.
Firstly, thanks for your input:
|There is a difference in creating links and being given them freely. The art is for the generated ones to look like they are given. |
I have to say that this scares me.
I say that because there have been about five people on this forum over the last several months who have asked me to look at their sites and help them try and figure out why they were penalized. (I don't do professional SEO, but they just wanted someone to loan them a pair of eyeballs to help them figure out what was going on.)
One thing those penalized sites ALL had were links that would appear to be very "natural" looking at first glance.
So the question becomes, what sort of art is involved for the generated ones to look like they are given freely?
|...we instead created with that money a literature award, contacted all relevant news outlets, universities, writers and publishers and in the end had about 1.000 links... |
Thanks for the reminder that there is more than one way to get things done.
Tell us, Planet13, what gave it away that the links were not natural?
|Tell us, Planet13, what gave it away that the links were not natural? |
Ummm... I used my ultra-secret technology paid-links detection algorithm, based on cutting-edge electronics developed by aliens, smuggled out of Area 51!
Wait a minute... That circuit board doesn't say Area 51... It says "Studio 54" What they hey?!?!?!
Ok, ok, I confess; I simply asked the owners of the penalized sites whether they paid for those links or not ;)
In reality, often I didn't have to ask: they pointed them out to me ahead of time because they were PROUD of the links they got, most likely because the SEO companies they hired were PROUD of the links they built.
But also, there were other giveaways:
- The links appeared on different sites with the same basic CMS template layout (except for different colors).
- The anchor text was exact match (or near exact match).
- The link appeared at a more or less consistent place in the text of the first paragraph.
- Other pages had links to other sites that seemed out of place.
- the writing style of the text was very similar from site to site.
- The domain names of the sites were all very similar in structure, such as keyword 1 + keyword2 + Other-word (like "resources" "tips" "info" "deals" etc.,).
- No physical contact information listed on the sites (no phone number, no physical street address, etc.,)
- Most importantly, the link just felt like it didn't belong there. sort of like, someone is writing about baby back ribs, and there is text along the lines of, "You might want to [link]buy a vacuum cleaner[/link] to clean up the mess after eating these ribs.
These were the type of links that were being built by SEO companies that purportedly charge between $500 and $900 per month. And when the sites crashed and burned, guess what the suggestion by the SEO companies were:
Wait, wait! Don't tell me... uh, Build More Links?
If only the client could just increase their link-building budget, why, those SEO companies were SURE they could "get them over the hump" and regain their rankings.
Now, the only thing left for me to do is to figure out how to stop my ultra-secret backlink-analysis software from automatically playing Y-M-C-A by the village people every time I run it...
They weren't building links. They were buying them.
|If that is the case (in essence, google will look at the RATIO of good links to bad links, instead of the amount of total links), then we would be in good shape. |
We are all privy to our own biases, so objectively understanding ratios and link types gets grey quickly.
I think Google has no choice but to improve their algorithm to understand link diversity ratios more.
And it is likely in my opinion they are already filtering back, discounting, a significant percentage of links that marketers "assume" are counting - partly because of some inconsistent and poor metrics-to-value assessment by some of the link profile companies on the marketplace.
When you clear the chaff and take a real look at unique c class domains, most websites ranking in medium competition verticals in fact have very few.
Factor in social signals, brand signals, and the types of links Google might expect a brand to build and it is easy to see how low quality links could be easily detected, and potentially, cause long term issues if a new set of tweaks were launched that approached links "like" Adwords Quality Score or Panda.
FWIW, this is likely my last post on this site. I'm moving on for a combination of reasons - some of which relate to this thread.
Google just penalized my two main whitehat sites. As far as I can tell, it's due to no other reason than I was using the same (custom, user tested) template on both sites. The solution that's been proposed to me is to burn one of the domains, because Google apparently doesn't like someone ranking twice for the same terms (which these sites were).
FWIW, here's the background.
Site 1) corporate site on my company name. all expert level content I wrote myself on technical aspects of our products. 6-8 unique custom calculators developed with the assistance of statisticians and accountants. 5000+ pages of historical material from the 1800's in my niche. Custom template. Anti-spam badges. Links to two dozen media mentions (many national). User testimonials. Backlinks are overwhelmingly authoritative citations.
Site 2) keyword rich domain I bought a year or two ago - rich enough that I'm not going to burn it. It's (my industry)(my country).com. Same template as site 1, and many articles on the same *topics*. However the articles (again, expert level, written by me) are more general and talk about problems, how to buy, etc. The site is intended to be a wiki-like site. Includes articles I wrote on how to get started in my business,info for consumers on how to find ombudspeople in my niche - stuff I won't put on a corporate site. Backlinks are mostly just some reasonable quality geo-specific directories. Site 2 linked to site 1 using the anchor text www dot site1.com (yes, the url as anchor text) with a message 'calculator supplied by www site1 dot com). This is necessary in my industry because gov't regulators get prissy about disclosing who is behind a site and I wanted to make it clear that a wiki-type site was actually owned by me, a commercial entity.
In short, two examples of white hat link building and extreme expert content. Not only that, but I claim that Google's algorithm should be looking to give my site an actual and specific boost, not a penalty. That's a grand claim, I stand by it. Google got it wrong, yet isn't interested in even considering the possibility.
All the other sites but one on the front page of Google for my niche are either IBM sized brands, or independents that are doing blackhat/spammy link building. That's it - two remaining white hat SEO's on the front page and they just penalized one of them. Think about this from a business perspective.
I added the 5000 pages of content along with some funky (but correct for users) 301's. Shortly after that both sites were penalized.
Speculation: the 301's caused a hand review. The hand reviewer saw two sites in the same niche with the same template and penalized me because I'm ranking for the same terms on two sites (though again, the two sites are in the same niche, they actually have different content). Frankly the reveiwers were simply lazy.
Action: I initially removed the 301's and robots.txt blocked the 5000 pages of historical content. Submitted a reinclusion request. Response from google, I have violated their guidelines (wtf? - my main white hat site?) with a link to their guidelines.
Next, I call some buddies for advice. A variety of things are suggested, but basically it comes down to Google sees two sites ranking that I own and doesn't like that (recall that the penalties of the two sites are connected.) Recommended that I burn my keyword rich domain. I refuse. The sites are both owned by me and have the same template but they are NOT the same site nor do they have the same information, nor is it appropriate to combine the info on one site.
Next, I remove the link from site 2 to site 1 and do another reconsideration request noting the link removal, and that the content is different.
It's now my belief that I am penalized for having two sites. Further, I believe that Google employees are at the point where there's no accountability and no one bright enough to actually read my content and respond to my assertations - they simply review and rubber stamp. So I determine I need someone with a brain at Google to look at what they are doing (I further assert that if someone with a brain actually looked at my content they'd agree that my site should be receiving a boost not a penalty - my site is killer for users, and is head and shoulders above any of my competitors).
I then received a response to my second reinclusion request - the same thing. You violate google's guidelines, here's a link to the guidelines. It appears that I'm going to get no further with Google on getting them to reconsider my site. Fine, so how to proceed?
The reason my sites have been white hat has always been that it should be more stable in terms of the rankings. When white hat gets penalized - and confirmed by hand review, then the stability benefits are no longer worth the effort - the stability has been removed. Add in the fact that I was basically the last bastion of white hat link building on the front page (i.e. other stuff is working fine) and there simply is no further business case for white hat.
Secondly, I am going to get ranked - I want Google traffic. If I only have time for white hat or black hat, and white hat doesn't provide additional benefits, then my efforts clearly need to be towards building a stable black hat business model. I hate to sound like batman/joker, but that's about what this has become. More specifically, the baseline behind white hat is not getting penalized - and that's just been removed. So if I'm factoring in getting penalized going forward, then repetitive black hat is the way to go.
Aside, I've always noted that one needs to be diverse. While my main business websites have been wiped out of Google, it's just been a nice break from me. I have sustainable online business ventures that provide me enough money to live on, that do not depend on Google at all. In addition I am working on an arrangement where 1000 other sales reps who sell product part time will be funnelling me business from their websites.
I have just robots.txt blocked Google from all my sites, including the two sites that were penalized (I am still getting traffic and sales though). THis removed something like 50,000 to 100,000 pages from their index, all high quality expert level content.
Next I will be trying some techniques to sidestep the penalty without their assistance.
Through the years, in the theme of being diverse, I have built up a stable of old, well linked sites in my niche and others. I have hundreds of pr2-pr5 sites, dozens in my niche and the rest all over the place. In addition, I have a source or two that will provide me the ability to buy medium pr established sites on an ongoing basis, developed that years ago just in case.
After I attempt to circumvent the penalty, the strategy will be to start burning through my secondary established domains in my niche.
Getting back to the point behind this thread now....
Backlink building will consist of the following four techniques:
1) links from my own diverse network (I will be buying domains on an ongoing basis as part of the strategy, ensuring a continued supply)
2) paid blog posts.
3) joining private networks.
4) offering cash for links. I have had some links removed in the last year or two because the sites started selling to other places that seemed spammy. I will be paying cash for those kinds of sites again.
I will be attempting to build this as a repeatable process. I will have multiple aged sites in my niche ready to go an a sustained buy for other links. If a site gets burned, I will have ready another one or two ready to go at all times.
I considered adwords. It costs $3k-$5K to run a top adwords campaign for me (I've done it). However I can build a network of sites and buy links for a lot less than that. It's actually cheaper to go sustainable blackhat than it is for adwords. So I won't be paying for adwords, though I will have a monthly budget.
In terms of content, I will try spinning and low quality articles but I expect to simply hack together keyword rich articles myself by hand- I can write unique articles quickly if I'm not constrained to writing expert level. Quality of content only matters if I'm building white hat links.
In summary, the benefit behind white hat was the additional stability offered in the rankings. Google has removed this stability without recourse or effective reconsideration.
This sounds like no big deal for google - and it isn't. But perhaps it's a teeny-weeny tiny deal. The following is where I've left things:
- blocked them from about 100K pages of quality content - historical content that can't be found anywhere else online.
- blocked them from my calculators, many of which are unique. Bing has them, Google doesn't.
- blocked them from my corporate sites. The articles are one of the sole sources of understandable info in my niche - or maybe that's just sour grapes talking.
- when someone searches on my company name, they're left with a url and the stupid (inapporpriate) description from my DMOZ link. It look ridiculous - on them. I have initial talks with two companies in 2012 that may lead to a national TV ad campaign for my company. If I pull that off, and people start searching for my company name in Google they'll find my link alright - but many consumers are going to get their first taste of really bad listings in Google when the see the results for my company name.
In the end, Google won't stop me ranking though they have changed how that will happen. And they've made it clear to me that their employees and policies are now at the drone level - Matt Cutts/Google/spam team simply don't care for individual cases that require reason or 'consideration'. I've got a solid business plan to rank in Google going forward. I've had to suffer what I expect to be a six month drop in revenue and Google's not going to be better off when I'm done, but my business will be more stable as a result.
So if you read all that - the point is, yes, you should absolutely be buying spammy low end links. Make sure you can do it sustainably, have sites in reserve for when you get penalized, but don't waste your time with the effort of white hat. Black hat is easier than white hat, it's cheaper than adwords, and it is now a more sustainable, solid business plan than white hat is.
[edited by: martinibuster at 8:59 pm (utc) on Jan 26, 2012]
[edit reason] Edited for TOS 12 & 24. [/edit]
It is a sad day when one of the good guys has to go bad in order to prosper. It shows there is something seriously wrong with Google.
It will be a big loss to lose you from posting on here. You are in the half dozen or so people whose stuff I take the time to read thoroughly. I would have thought you might be due the odd favour or two.
However this is your chance to put your theory into practice and see if you really are "algo proof".
Good luck wheel, but I am sure you won't need it.
|It is a sad day when one of the good guys has to go bad in order to prosper. It shows there is something seriously wrong with Google. |
|It will be a big loss to lose you from posting on here. |
|I would have thought you might be due the odd favour or two. |
Wish there was some way I could pay you back for all the favors you've done for me, my friend!
Having said that, I think that you are going to make out ok. However, knowing you, I think you might miss "the thrill of the hunt" and that great feeling your get when you acquire one of those killer white hat links.
One more thing:
|All the other sites but one on the front page of Google for my niche are either IBM sized brands, or independents that are doing blackhat/spammy link building. |
And Adwords, I am sure.
Yes, I know that adwords listings are not organics - but their expanded prominence on the front page, along with crappier and crappier results in the organics, seems to be little coincidence.
It really seems to me that google is simply turning into a search function for sites like amazon, target, wal-mart, etc, as opposed to a search engine. Maybe that's what the people want?
On the other hand, it seems to me like the future for bing gets rosier with every google update.